The husband had his wisdom teeth out today, which meant the plan for open-faced sandwiches had to morph into something more soft and smushy. So voila: A recipe for the puffy-cheeked that doesn't involve canned soup. And best of all, it was delicious enough that we'd make it again, even on a day without dental trauma.
1 cup organic polenta/coarsely ground cornmeal
2 cups water
1/4 cup milk (optional)
1/3 cup grated pepper jack (or substitute Monterey Jack or cheddar)*
1-2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced (or just diced, if you're not post-dentist)
1 avocado, diced
Heat some water in a teapot. Meanwhile, place a smallish pot over medium-high heat. Add polenta and toast, stirring or tossing from time to time, for a minute. Push to the side of the pot, drizzle in a little olive oil, and stir to coat the grains. Adjust heat to medium. Continue toasting and stirring until polenta is fragrant and just starting to turn golden.
Add two cups of hot water to the polenta and stir, breaking up any clumps. Add the milk and a pinch of salt, bring to a simmer, and cook gently, stirring, for 2 minutes or until it thickens to just a little wetter than the desired consistency. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit for a minute.
Serve into bowls, sprinkle with cheese, and top with tomato and avocado.
*If you live in northern California, Petaluma Creamery's pepper jack is creamier and pepperier than any other we've tasted and comes from local pastured cows (as does anything from Spring Hill Cheese Company). It's also somehow ridiculously inexpensive despite all that.
Update: See also this variation.